July 5, he wrote from Gettysburg
Yesterday our band played the national airs amid the shouts of a victorious army.
The promotion of his brother David to the rank of Major-General
was followed by the promotion of Captain Birney
His commission as Assistant Adjutant-General
, with the rank of Major
, is dated September 15, 1863.
November 30, he sent a pencilled note from Mine Run
: ‘We assault the enemy's works at eight A. M. We are to charge up an open slope half a mile long.’
December 3. ‘Back at Brandy Station
No defeat, but disgraceful failure.’
On Christmas-day, 1863, Major Birney
married Laura, youngest daughter of the late Jacob Strattan
, of Philadelphia
, —a lady with whom he became acquainted when both were pupils at Eagleswood.
It is harder for him ‘now to be away from home than it ever has been before,’ but he will ‘stay till the good work is done.’
In April he says:—
Since my marriage life seems to me doubly precious and doubly uncertain.
I need more than ever true Christian resignation to bear with composure whatever lot. I glory in being the soldier of a noble cause.
If it is God's will that I fall,—well, I do not complain.
, May 4, he writes: ‘With what humiliation we left this place a year ago to-day!
The graves are very many.
Violets do what they can to cheer the desolation.’
Through the spring of 1864 he suffered from cold and cough; towards the end of May it became evident that he was breaking down.
The General's confidence in him invited constant over-exertion.
He was too sensitive to accept the proffered assistance of his friends.
He positively refused to go on